Peter Leeson of George Mason University has published a new book, WTF?! An Economic Tour of the Weird, which you can purchase on Amazon by clicking here. A trailer for the book, starring the author himself, can be found below:
The book covers a wide range of historical practices which may seem odd but, once you apply the tools of economics, make much more sense than is commonly believed. For example, did you know that the Church used to put insects and rodents on trial for destruction of property? These vermin were even appointed top legal minds for their defense! Or how about the practice of using ordeals to supernaturally determine an accused person's guilt or innocence? How do these practices relate to the use of, for example, polygraph tests today?
Pete's reasoning is that superstitious beliefs (which he defines as any belief that is widely held as true but is scientifically false) can be used as a form of technology to improve social outcomes. To evidence this, he documents extensively many historical cases and explains their rationale through the lens of economics. What's more, the book is one of the easiest reads I have ever come across. Rather than reading as, well, a standard non-fiction book, it is written as a script of a tour guide leading patrons through a museum of curiosa.